Way To Go Choco

Whoever says chocolates aren’t good for the health is sourgraping. Chocolates taste heavenly for those with a sweet tooth. Rightly so because chocolates come from the cacao tree Theobroma, a Greek word which literally means "food of the gods."

Chocoholics may actually benefit from eating their favorite food. One study covering 8,000 male Harvard graduates revealed that those who ate chocolates lived longer than those who abstained. This can be traced to chocolate’s high levels of polyphenol which lower the oxidation of low-density lipoproteins and prevent heart problems. Although this has not been fully confirmed, it sure is one positive news.

It is also interesting to note that some of the world’s oldest people whom they call supercentenarians were actually chocolate eaters. Jeanne Calment who lived for 122 years and Sarah Knauss who lived for 119 years liked eating chocolates. Calment consumed two pounds of chocolate every week until she was advised by her doctor at age 119 to give up the sweets. For longevity, the dark chocolate is normally recommended instead of the confectionery popular in the U.S.

Chocolate’s various content have health benefits. There’s theobromine which, according to research, may serve as a cough medicine because of its effect on the vagus nerve. Then there’s tryptophan, an amino acid that aids in the production of serotonin. An improved serotonin function normally reduces anxiety. Chocolate consumption also initiates the release of endorphins which help lessen sensitivity to pain.

Some studies have also found that chocolate contains the polyphenol antioxidant, specifically flavonoids. The University of Scranton research showed that chocolate has high quality and quantity of antioxidants. Of the chocolate products studied, cocoa powder has the highest antioxidant content followed by dark chocolate and milk chocolate. The Chocolate Manufacturers Association confirms that dark chocolate has eight times more polyphenol antioxidants than those present in strawberries. In plants, one of the protective benefits of flavonoids is in repairing damage and guarding against environmental toxins. In humans, antioxidants help in repairing cell damage caused by free radicals.

That’s not all. A 2005 study in Italy published in the Hypertension journal showed that dark chocolate has a potential to lower blood pressure among people with hypertension problem. It also revealed that the LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) levels of the subjects went down by 10 percent. Another small study in 2001 done by Pennsylvania State University researchers found that those who have diets rich in cocoa powder and dark chocolate slightly increased their HDL or good cholesterol than those in the control group.

As for nutrients, yup chocolates do have them, too. It’s actually rich in potassium and magnesium and provides vitamins B1, B2, D and E. But before you go on a chocolate binge, take note that you should not consume all chocolate products that you like as those bars and candies often have high fat and sugar content plus lots of calories. Go for the dark chocolate but as always, eat it in moderation. Remember that an average bar of chocolate has about 250 calories. It’s also best that while you indulge in your favorite craving every now and then, you also eat the right foods including fruits and vegetables to reap greater health benefits.

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About The Author, Philip Nicosia
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